Under the Patronage of H.h. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai
Top seed Kei Nishikori attends the media roundtable at the Jumeirah Creekside Hotel's Cu-ba restaurant ahead of the 2019 Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.
THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.
Q. You’ve been around for quite a few years now. Why did it take you so long to get to Dubai?
KEI NISHIKORI: Well, it was always comfortable to play this week Acapulco. I used to play Memphis all the time. It was easier for me to play U.S. side.
But I chose to play last week in Europe, and Dubai here. I always wanted to come here. Schedule-wise it wasn’t easy. But I chose to come here. Something new. It’s fun. I wanted to play two 500s, so I chose to play here.
Q. Naomi Osaka, what sort of thing has happened for tennis in Japan?
KEI NISHIKORI: Well, it’s great. I mean, two in a row, winning Grand Slams, it’s incredible I have to say. Her mental is very, very tough, very professional I have to say. She’s still young, but it’s great to see.
Maybe unfortunate to lost here, but I’m sure she’s okay. She’s going to winning more Grand Slams.
Q. In what way does it motivate you?
KEI NISHIKORI: Yeah, I mean, of course. Same country. She’s been amazing. Yeah, always motivate me for the tennis.
Q. You know what it feels like being a superstar in Japan. For Naomi, this is all new to her. She talked about it being a bit of a struggle. Can you relate in any way when attention was starting for you in Japan? What do you make of how she’s able to cope?
KEI NISHIKORI: It’s bit different, I think. It’s much more than me. She’s winning two Grand Slams in a row. Maybe year ago she wasn’t rank top 10. Suddenly everything change. She’s No. 1, too. I been top 3 before.
Everything different. Many pressure, for sure. Being No. 1, winning Grand Slams, that’s something I never had before. It’s a bit different. It’s more than me, I think.
I’m sure she’s going to adapt. Just need the time. Like I said, she has great mental, very strong, very calm. She doesn’t get panic too much. I’m sure in time will get used to it.
Q. You’re playing Benoit Paire first round. A tough matchup. There are a couple more in the draw that are kind of tough. Do you think it’s this tournament or is it becoming increasingly like that in men’s tennis, where the margins and the gap between players is smaller?
KEI NISHIKORI: Yeah, I feel that. Every year I feel that. Especially this year and last year it’s been getting tougher and tougher. Everybody can beat anybody now. Even top 50 or top 100 guys can really play. There’s no easy matches.
Yeah, Benoit, he can always be dangerous. Great backhand. I love his backhand. One of the best backhands, two-hands backhand. I’m sure it’s going to be tough one.
Q. There have been a few wins over the top three in the last few years. Do you think that has helped bridging the gap in men’s tennis? The youngsters coming up, do you think it’s a mix of all that? What really has caused this?
KEI NISHIKORI: I don’t know. I think everybody gets physically stronger and also they have more passion to become top 10. Yeah, you see many young guys are coming up last year: Sascha, Domi, some new guys have been in top 10 now.
I think everything starting change little bit.
Q. In that respect, do you see your main challenge for this year will be the young guns or the old guard? This promises to be a good year for you. How do you see that?
KEI NISHIKORI: I think both, mix. I’m sure the guys who are 34, 35, 36 can still play. They still growing. Also the young guys. You see Felix doing really well this week, some new young guys are winning 250s, 500s now.
I’m sure it’s going to be another interesting year.
Q. You mentioned playing two 500s back-to-back. Is this part of a plan of schedule for the year? Do you have a particular target in mind?
KEI NISHIKORI: I don’t know about next year, but this year it’s been try to play a little more. Last year I was injured. I missed couple tournaments. I had to play many 250s.
Yeah, hopefully I can do well those big tournaments, especially Masters, Grand Slams. Hopefully I don’t have to play too much tournaments. I have to be physically healthy all the time. The best way is not to play too many tournaments. That’s for sure.
We will see. I mean, depends on how I do first half of the season, then I will choose another half of the season. So far it’s been very nice season.
Q. A lot of the players who are forced to stay away from the sport for a while because of injury, they come back and say they see tennis in a different light or perspective. What was the impact of your injury in terms of perspective?
KEI NISHIKORI: I think I was same. I got injured. I tried to refocus again. I felt like after my wrist injury two years ago, this is my second season of my tennis career. I really think about the way I do training, my body. I started thinking from beginning again. Tennis, too.
I changed couple things. I think it was good to have that time off, and I can able to regroup again everything. Some stuff got better. Usually it’s not easy to change something when you are healthy and play whole season. Sometimes it’s nice to have couple months off from tennis.
Q. When you got that time off, usually you’re traveling all the time, you don’t get much time, how did you spend it?
KEI NISHIKORI: Actually I went couple places. I still travel (smiling). I went couple place for fun. I was in Japan, of course, to see my friends, family, relax little bit.
But I live in States. Well, I went Belgium for rehab. I was there for one month. It was nice. Something different. I never been there. It was fun to do something different with different country.